PHILADELPHIA - Coming off a trio of overtime games -- losses to UMBC and Harvard, sandwiched around a win over Yale -- the Penn men’s lacrosse team heads to arguably its toughest test this season: a Saturday afternoon game at No. 1 Cornell. Faceoff is slated for 3 p.m. at Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, N.Y.
The Big Red (6-0, 1-0 Ivy) have held the top spot in the USILA coaches poll each of the last three weeks, and enter Saturday’s contest looking to improve to 7-0 overall for the first time since 1987. Cornell has won three of its six games by double figures, including last weekend’s 19-8 win over Yale in its Ivy opener.
Cornell goes into the weekend leading the nation in scoring margin and second in goals per game. The Big Red are led offensively by David Mitchell (16 goals) and Eric Pittard (15 goals, 8 assists). In fact, Pittard is third in the conference in points per game (3.83).
Penn (4-3, 1-1 Ivy) is led by one of the players who ranks ahead of Pittard in that category, sophomore attack Craig Andrzejewski (4.14 ppg). He leads a Quaker attack that also features senior Alex Salihi (9-6--15) and Casey O'Rourke (8-6--14). In all, five Penn players have reached double figures in points.
Cornell leads the overall series, 56-22-3, but Penn has parlayed wins two of the last three years into NCAA Tournament berths in both 2004 and 2006. Last year, of course, the Quakers welcomed No. 2 Cornell to Franklin Field and proved to be a rude host, downing the Big Red, 8-6, behind four James Riordan goals and four points by D.J. Andrzejewski.
The goaltending situation provides a contast in experience. Penn freshmanChris Casey has only recently begun starting, having been between the pipes each of the last three games. Last weekend, he had 12 saves but still took the loss at Harvard. Overall,Casey is fourth in the Ivy League with a 7.90 goals-against average and a .556 save percentage.
At the other end, Cornell’s Matt McMonagle enters Saturday’s game with just one loss against Ivy League opposition in his career-- last year’s decision at Penn. The senior is 16-1 overall against Ivy opponents. Currently, he leads the Ivies and ranks fifth in the nation with a 6.13 goals-against average, and is second in the Ivies and 10th nationally with a .617 save percentage.
Saturday’s game is the third Ivy League game in a row for Penn; this represents the midway point of a six-game stretch against Ivy opponents.